Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Every year it seems we get fewer and fewer trick or treaters in my neighborhood. This year had to be a new low of 17.

5:30 - 6:00 pm 1
6:00 - 6:30 pm 9
6:30 - 7:00 pm 6
7:00 - 7:30 pm
7:30 - 8:00 pm
8:00 - 8:30 pm 1
Total 17

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ich Bin Optimus Prime

Youngest Son took his Halloween mask/helmet into school today. He walked into German class and announced "Ich Bin Optimus Prime".

The World of Marching Band.

We are in the throes of Championship time in the world of Marching bands with State Championships last Saturday, USSBA and Cavalcade of Bands the following two weekends.

Four years ago I never thought that I would know anything about this world. Oldest son was about to enter High School and played some piano and was teaching himself guitar when he announced that he was joining Marching Band. It sounded hard to march with piano but I thought he should join.

It was one of those things from left field that life occasionally throws you.

We had never said to ourselves "Gee, I hope he joins marching band" when he was four and running around in a Batman cape. (we never said "Gee, I hope he leaves the sunroof of the car open overnight and rain soaks my seats so that I have a excellent opportunity to practice forgiveness", either, but that is another story).

So in July of '03 he shows up at the first Wednesday marching band practice session of the year hoping to be the "pit" guitar player.

I pick him up at 6 and he has a very large box. Being curious, I ask "what's in the box?".

Why it's a mellowphone of course and I am introduced to the band director, Steve. Steve says don't worry. They'll teach him the mellowphone. He just needs to practice scales.

I'm thinking "what the heck is a mellowphone?"

I look up mellowphone on the Internet. It's a French Horn for marching bands and it looks heavy.

I know that like most fathers, I can be a little distant from the details of my kids lives. I may not know the name of their pediatrician, their art teachers name or what time they get home from school but I am pretty sure that I had never seen a very large shiny object that music comes out of attached to my son's face. I am fairly confident he does not play the mellowphone

I spend a week tripping over the large mellowphone box but the mellowphone never sees the light of day in our home.

No scales are practiced.

Along comes the second Wednesday and the mellowphone is escorted to the car and to practice.

I pick him up at six. He now has the the very familiar mellowphone box and a new box.

Again, I am curious. "What's in the box?"

It's an alto saxophone of course and I tell him that he doesn't play this either but at least it looks lighter.

The saxophone comes out everyday and he painfully practices. Our neighbor thinks he is killing goats in his room. "No", I say, "he is learning saxophone". They make a sour face at me. (now their son is learning trumpet and I am keeping my mouth shut).

By late August, he could play enough sax to get by and was learning to march. I find this amazing and am thankful it's not the mellowphone. There is only one mellowphone in the band and it would have been him. It's one thing to learn a new instrument and get by. It's another to be the only something and learning to play.

Some are born into Marching Band, some achieve Marching Band and still other have Marching Band thrust upon them. We had marching band thrust upon us and next thing I knew, someone handed us a cow bell, 35 fund raisers and asked us what jobs we wanted at something called "Home Comp". We were instant band parents.

We didn't get to any competitions that year because of school for my wife and soccer and scout commitments that I had with youngest son and so we were surprised the night he called us and told us that his band won USSBA's group II A in Allentown. They only time we watched their show that year was the time they performed for the parents at 1 AM on the field in front of the school using car head lights as their only light light source. I remember thinking someone was going to get killed marching in the dark.

I guess he did OK since 60 days previous to this he could barely play the sax.

The next three years were a blur of parking buses at "Home Comp", buying Shop-Rite gift cards , late night pick-ups at the high school and sitting in the cold listening to some other peoples kids play songs from Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll and Hyde.

We have gotten to more completions this year and are excited because his band is the New England Patriots of Group II A competitions this year. They are undefeated and favored going into Championship weekend.

Look for us. We'll be in the stands with a cowbell cheering them on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Someone really really wants a chipwich

Taken today at my office.

The sign reads "Item #14 has been empty for at least 3 weeks".

Item #14 is a chocolate chipwich.

So go out and find a place that sells chipwichs. We are in center city Philadelphai after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Parade Watch

I was lucky enough to go to the Eagles game on Sunday and I can assure you that from what I saw, the real estate in this picture will be Parade free the first week in February.

No Parade. Bet the house.

Even though the Eagles sucked it was an excellent day over all and I ran into all kinds of friends all day long. First a big thanks to my office mate, Mat, for inviting me after I badgered him in to it.

And now my Sunday:

I took the speed line into the city and the subway to the Linc.

I take the speed line everyday and using it on a Sunday was a little surreal. It was like one of those science fiction movies where everyone is killed off in plague except for a few people. The station was empty.

When the train came I found my friend Ed and his son were waiting around the corner where I could not see them. He was going to the game too. Ed told me that he thought to himself that he could drive into the city and park for $25 and take the subway or he could drive the Linc and pay $25 to park but then he asked himself "What would Al Gore do?". Ed took the train.

After a quick couple of rounds of "where are you now" on the cell phone with Mat, I found him in FDR park. Mat had steaks and lobster tails waiting be grilled. We ate well. We got fried in the sun. I made a poor fashion choice with long pants. It was October and I was wishing I had shorts.

Next it was off to the Linc for the game or as I preferred to call it: "the festival of field goals".

On the way over there was a scene that was both sad and funny at the same time. There was this guy maybe 40 something. He had a few sheets to wind and was trying to start E-A-G-L-E-S chants. He was pleasant but he was definitely on the happy juice. His 8-10 year old son was with him.

The low point was was when the kid said "You really are drunk". That's got to make you feel like crap. Welcome to Philly.

At the game, someone was NOT McNabulous. He had one of those days when he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

I refuse to go into details of game except to say that bad teams find a way to lose. Enjoy the basement. I refuse to even give a score.

There were a few Bears fans and they got some verbal abuse but it was nothing to compared to full frontal assault reserved for Cowboys fans, especially those in Owens jerseys. Eagles fans can't stand Dallas and we even heard "Dallas Sucks" chants in the hoard waiting to get frisked before heading into the Linc. It was a Bears game and the green faithful were shouting Dallas Sucks. Oh and they booed at the frisbee catching dog when it missed one catch as part of the halftime show.

Best T-shirt of the day: "Save 2nd Base" a breast cancer awareness appropriately pink shirt with two strategically placed softballs on the, ah, uhum, upper front.

In the third quarter I ran into a couple that are parents of Oldest Son's Sax buddy in the Marching Band. they were in the same row, one section over. Surprise run in number 2.

The game was over and were were heading out and I ran into Mr C and his crew of three leaving their seats on the opposite side of the Stadium. When I ran into them I bummed a ride back to the train station to pick up my car.

When I got home, it was after dark Hot Tub time. 3/4 moon and no lights on.

I couldn't help but feel that I was going to get hit by a truck the next day or something. I just don't have days this good and I was sure something crappy was going to happen to compensate.

Pretty good so far..... Maybe it's compensation for the squirrel.

Pictures Here

Look on the bright side, the squirrel wasn't on fire.

Kamizazee Squirrel

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where Squirrels Go To Die.

Mrs F spent a large part of Saturday cleaning oldest Son's room however, I don't remember ever writing about exactly what his room looks like.

A few summers ago he wanted to paint his room and we said "sure" without getting a good idea of what he wanted to paint. Actually that is not entirely true, we knew he didn't want a traditional paint job in the room and that he was looking for something like Album Cover art.

He spent days in there but never quite finished. I recall that he got acrylic bottled craft paint everywhere.

There are outdoor scenes and sketches of famous Rock Stars. It is all in wild colors and there are big unfinished spaces everywhere. It looks like a work in progress and the artist stepped away for a cup of coffee or a cigarette.

He usually keeps his blinds up and so you can see it from the entire neighborhood.

Some of it is beautiful, some is frightening but it's all him.

This summer he wanted to "paint his room" again but with spray paints this time. This time we said no. Not because we weren't happy with the results but because he no idea how to handle spray paints indoors. We were afraid of fumes everywhere and for reasons I won't go into here, could have fumes in the house this summer.

Looking back on it I'm thinking we were crazy for letting him do it but what did it hurt?

I figure that we his goes off to college we can paint the room in something normal.

I'm thinking a soothing blue.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The summer that wouldn't die.

Around here the the weather has been warm. Crazy warm. Our electric bill for September was as high as August's. I keep thinking the weather will turn to those crisp Autumn days that you would expect for Fall in Philadelphia but they never quite make it.

Last night, while talking on the phone, I actually had my feet in the pool. Normally, putting your feet in the pool this time of year would make them turn blue and fall off. But it felt refreshing in the humid sticky air that was stuck the area over the last few days. It was October 19th , I was in shorts and a Tee-Shirt and I was standing in the pool. At night. And it wasn't a scene from Titanic.

The funny part is that as warm as it's been, the leaves are still turning colors and falling.

It's destiny. The second week in October, the leaves fall without in spite of Al Gore and global warming.

Or it's the dry weather.

Along with being warm, it's been dry.

I am ready for fall but I fear that it will just pass us by and we'll go from Summer to Winter with no stop over in Autumn.

Last night I noticed that even the commercials on TV have missed a beat. I saw one last night that said "sweater weather may be here...." . I couldn't get past that because I was lying in bed sweating like rancid pork.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Oldest son is a senior in High School this year and this is height of of college visit season. As part of this ritual we visited two schools last week: Ithaca College and Rutgers.

The two colleges were polar opposites. One is expensive, One is diverse, one is urban, one is remote, one is close, one is far.

If you ask him which he liked better, the answer seems to be "which ever one was the last we visited". It is so easy to get caught up into hype of seeing a college campus on warm Autumn afternoon with it's ivy covered walls and happy students. The really hard part is figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Never an easy question unless you are lucky enough to be that guy that just always knew he wanted to be a sports writer or a doctor.

He is not that lucky and has leaned to towards what I call "artsy" things like literature and music.

He has liked poetry for the past few years in High School and even went to a workshop over the summer at a private university in Pennsylvania. I think he might want to be a poet. I guess the only problem that see is that I never seem to find "Help Wanted" ads for poets. Poets must spend a lot of time looking out of windows and pondering things deeply according to Billy Collins, the only poet I know and like. This doesn't seem like something someone should pay you for.

I guess there might be a for poets, but I've never seen it.

I've also seen him write poetry in Italian since he has taken 4 years of High School Italian. If there is a small market for poets, the need for Italian poets must be near microscopic.

And so this leads us to our conflict.

At 40k a year for a private university, a $120k experiment to determine if you want to be a poet seems, well, a little risky. I've explained that he will need to take on part of that risk since we can not afford to pay 120k over the next 4 years and now alternative careers have now emerged like Communications and Journalism. Things that I have actually seen jobs for. I think it's a compromise.

On the other hand, I want him to be happy at what ever it is he decides he wants to do for a career. However, since his mother is very practical and is looking for some reward for the investment of her time and money, we have a full fledge war brewing at home.

She pointed out that she wanted to be a dancer at one point. (no, not one that involved a pole, either). But she figured out she would make more money as a dental assistant. Did she compromise? Maybe, but she made a good living.

Honestly, I'm not sure what direction to push him in. Should I push for the "career" in communications or for him to follow his dream of becoming a poet? Can he realistically do both some how?

I don't know.

Until he decides here is some Billy Collins to make you laugh.


Candle Hat.

Introduction to Poetry.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I don't even know where to begin telling what wacky day last Saturday was or how to delicately broach the subject without utter disgust.

OK, there is no way but to just blurt it out. Friday morning there was a stench in our home. It was weak but when you caught wind of it, it grabbed you by the collar and said something bad happened.

It seemed to be centered near Oldest Sons room but we could quite pin it down on Friday morning when we first noticed it. We looked in his room for obvious things like doggy droppings from Provo and Lone the Schnauzers, rotting fruit or some other organic that he "accidentally" left behind but we couldn't see anything.

That evening my wife was convinced that it was coming from the boys bathroom and had youngest son scrub it from top to bottom. It didn't help. The stench lingered in the air.

I said "something died"

It was definitely coming from his room but we had things to get done on Friday night and had to go out.

In the morning Oldest Son came in our room first thing and told us ....
wait for it........

there was a DEAD ANIMAL in his room.

Aurrrrrgh. Disgusting. A DEAD SOMETHING was rotting in his room. He couldn't even look. He was making contorted faces and muttering to himself.

It was up to me to remove it and clean up.

I went in to check it out and found (it sickens me to even think of it again) a DEAD SQUIRREL between his bed and the front window.

So most of Saturday was spent cleaning up after the unluckiest squirrel in New Jersey, the one that wandered into an open window only to find two angry Schnauzers. (oldest son had opened the window in our October heat wave and removed the screen for some unknown reason). That is the best I can figure out. The dogs got him.

I'm sure that Mr. Squirrel was sorry the minute he entered the window but it was too late.

So much for Saturday morning.

Saturday night was spent at the High School Marching Band Home Competition in support of our animal loving oldest son. I worked at parking incoming buses of bands and my wife worked the concessions. Oldest Son is a senior and it's tradition to send an "Air Gram" message over the public address system as his band takes the field.

We couldn't help it. Ours said "it's safe to go in your room again".

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Father Mumbles

On Tuesday my wife and I attended the funeral of her cousin.

He was 37. He passed away after having a a heart attack. Very sad.

The funeral was held at Our Lady of the Assumption church in Strafford, PA. My mother-in-law reminded me where it was by telling me "you know, where you got married". Like I had forgotten or something. I know I'm getting old Mom, but I remember where OLA is.

It was a Catholic Mass after a viewing and the Mass was said by an 86 year old priest. God bless him, I'm not sure that is what I would want to be doing at 86 and yet here he was on a Tuesday morning giving a funeral for a bunch of people he didn't know. (Her cousin had moved to Arizona but was brought back here to be buried.)

The only problem with the Mass was that the priest was inaudible.

He had the most peculiar way of being completely unintelligible which made for some strange moments during the Mass. His voice was very sing-songish and the pitch would fluctuate wildly up and down. He also spoke in a low voice but that wasn't the problem. It sounded as if he was racing through a text that he knew so well by heart that he wasn't pronouncing it as much as he was making roll off his tongue just as quickly as he could. It was like someone saying their ABCs in 1.2 seconds but sounding like Bing Crosby.

Bing Crosby, late in his life did those old Minute Maid Orange Juice commercials and he sounded like that only fast and in low volume.

Completely unintelligible.

"bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy-bopidy-bibipdy Christ be bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy"

Now a Catholic Mass has a lot of dance moves and it takes a tight coordination between the leader (the priest) and the crowd. There is sitting, kneeling and standing and there is a lot motion. If you are new I guess it's a like like being at one of those football games where the crowd in the stands has cards to hold up that spell things and makes pictures. You have a job to do and if you are new, you may not be quite sure how to do it. Having a Father Mumbles lead the novice funeral crowd in the Catholic calisthenics was funny.

Father Mumbles would give instructions to sit, stand or kneel and the noobs weren't quite sure what do. He would say "bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy-bopidy-bibipdy" then hold his hands in the air, expecting the crowd to kneel and no one would move. We would all look around to see what the person next to us was doing and then try to follow along. There were a lot of eyes darting left and right trying to figure out the next move.

The decease's father and his whole family were from India which only made it more interesting. At one point I looked over and they were just going through the motions. They would stand and sit when the crowd went up and down but it was clear that they had given up.

When Father Mumbles spoke, I couldn't look at my wife because we would just start cracking up.

Then came the homily. In a Catholic Mass the homily is where the priest speaks on a topic freely rather than recite a given script. Here Father Mumbles rambled incoherently for 10 minutes. In addition to the Bing Crosby impression he added a story made absolutely no sense what so ever. he mixed several different Gospel stories together and I think he was talking about Jiarus Daughter whom Jesus raised from the dead and Lazarus. Something about a Mother. I don't know.

The single most awkward part came when Father Mumbles asked if anyone wanted to say anything about the deceased. He did his bibipidy-bopidy thing in front of the church and sat down. My brother in law, who was acting as canter up on the alter, wasn't sure what he said and was awkwardly waiting for the Mass to start again since there was no scripted place where the priest says "bibipdity-bibipdity-bibipdity" and sits down.

It was an audible at the line from a priest no one could understand.

Surprisingly, no one came forward.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rotisserie Chicken

Originally uploaded by mfalcian
So last week when the Eagles were blowing out the Detroit Lions and everyone thought there were going to the super bowl, I was dreaming of rotisserie chicken. Maybe it was the wacky uniforms, I don't know.

Our grill came with a rotisserie but I had never used it.
After an APB for the giant skewer which I knew was in the Garage, I placed a whole Perdue roaster on the rotisserie.

There is something very exciting about meat on a stick.

I enjoyed just carrying from the kitchen to the grill. I felt like the returning hunter even though it was a chicken and it came in a sealed bag from the supermarket.

I learned a lot from the chicken and this week I made another. I learned to strap the legs together and tin foil the ends so that they don't flop about and burn.

As Dad says "There is nothing like a whole chicken"

Monday, October 01, 2007

Phillies Rally

Originally uploaded by mfalcian
At lunch I went down the Phillies rally across the street. The place was packed and it was hard to hear what was going down there. I caught like every other word: blah blah blah PLAYOFFS! blah blah blah.

The funniest part had to be when they introduced known iPhone lover, Mayor Street. The philly crowded instinctively booed him. They know a suck up when they see it.

The second most booed appearance was that of Adam Eaton, Saturdays losing pitcher. At least Harry Kalas didn't sing High Hopes again.

Finally I gave up and went upstairs and caught this picture from our kitchen.

A lesson

Today youngest son called right on schedule at 2:30 in the afternoon for his usual check in/out call after school. He wanted to go over friends house so I let him go.

When I pulled up in front of the house after work, the garage door was open, the front door was wide open and windows were open all over the first floor. When I came in the first thing I did was to check the house for missing items since he had been gone for 3 hours and I assumed that the house was that wide open for that long. We had spoken to him numerous times about locking up when he left but he just wasn't getting it.

So I took his TV, Xbox360 and his ipod which were all just sitting out in his room and hide them in my closet.

He came home at 6:30 and went right to his room. I heard him gasp from the kitchen but I think I did a good job of keeping a straight face. I got angry when he told me just like I was supposed to when he told me his stuff was missing.

Then I walked around and checked the rest of the house and found everything else was in order. I told him to make a list and we would call the police "but it looks like only your stuff is missing".

While he was stewing, I asked him if locked up the house when he left and sheepishly told me no.
I let him stew for a little longer while getting dinner ready.

He was pissed off that some one would come in and steal only his stuff. I told him that well, next time I guess you'll lock up.

Then at dinner I told him. He immediate reaction was "you are a very good teacher" and I think then from now on he will lock up.